It is illegal to promote tobacco products in France. However, it seems Philip Morris has found a loophole and is advertising a tobacco products in broad daylight! Essentially, the cigarette manufacturer is paying restaurant owners to conquer new customers. This strategy is focused on promoting the IQOS, available online and in certain tobacco shops in Paris for the past year. French newspaper Le Parisien was first to break the news.
IQOS is an electronic device designed to compete with e-cigarettes. It is an aggressive product launch to help the company survive reduced sales of cigarette products. The system looks a lot like an e-cig, but is based on good old tobacco. The design requires the purchase of small tubes of tobacco tipped with a filter, like mini-cigarettes. IQOS is a heat-not-burn device, which Philip Morris claims is less harmful to health than cigarettes. This assertion has however been challenged by many medical professionals.
Low sales in France
Despite this “healthy” sales argument, IQOS sales are stagnant in France. Philip Morris is nevertheless dedicated to their new line of products. This is to be expected, given Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco have both launched similar devices to compete.
The company’s promotional events in Paris are geared to convert both smokers and seasoned vape-enthusiasts. They are organised in trendy bars and restaurants throughout the capital, with managers of these establishments being rewarded with gift coupons. In exchange, Philip Morris representatives are often present during these events, to promote their products to potential customers. The manufacturer has also organised events for new IQOS users with attractive offers such as open bars.
While the company has not yet been penalised for this promotional strategy, the French DGSE, the department in charge of domestic security, has stated that this is indeed illegal. Philip Morris asserts that the events are solely organised to raise awareness on the functional properties of IQOS. They refuse to comment on their promotional strategy. And so, it seems France in 2018 has become a new platform for cigarette advertising.